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Law School Case Brief

Pearson v. Dodd - 429 U.S. 396, 97 S. Ct. 581 (1977)

Rule:

W. Va. Code § 11A-4-12 expressly provides, in part: the state has absolute title to all land sold to the state for nonpayment of taxes which has become irredeemable.

Facts:

Appellant failed to pay real estate taxes on her interest in certain land in West Virginia. The land was then sold to West Virginia under procedures which afforded notice of sale to the landowner only through posting of a delinquency list on the county courthouse door and publication of the list in local newspapers. Although West Virginia law entitled the appellant to redeem her interest at any time within 18 months of the state's purchase, the appellant failed to redeem, and West Virginia thereafter transferred the interest to an individual in a sale, the only notice of which was, as authorized under state law, by way of publication in two local newspapers. Some two years after the state's sale, appellant brought an action to quiet title in the Circuit Court of Kanawha County, West Virginia, naming as a defendant the buyer who purchased the property from the state. The circuit court ruled against the appellant, and its judgment was affirmed by the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia. Subsequently, appellant appealed to the United States Supreme Court, and it noted probable jurisdiction.

Issue:

Did the appellant have any constitutionally protected property or entitlement interest upon which to base a challenge of constitutional deficiency in the notice provisions of the state's sale of the disputed property to defendant buyer?

Answer:

No.

Conclusion:

The Supreme Court of the United States dismissed the case for want of a properly presented federal question. According to the Court, the appellant had no constitutionally protected property or entitlement interest upon which she could base a challenge of constitutional deficiency in the notice provisions attending the sale to the buyer. Under state law, absolute title had vested in the state at the expiration of the 18-month period after the sale, during which the taxpayer might have, but did not, exercise her right to redeem. Section 11A-4-12 expressly provided that the state had absolute title to all land sold to the state for nonpayment of taxes, which had become irredeemable.

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